Lets Get Stoned!

GEM-stoned that is!
Have you noticed some of your fellow naturalists sporting their gemstone bedazzled name tag at a recent gathering and thought to yourself “what are those gems for and what do I need to do to get these jewels on my name tag?” Don’t worry,  you do not need to go out and search the whole universe for these six stones like Thanos did for the coveted Infinity Stones in the movie Avengers: Infinity Wars. Obtaining these gems is much simpler: each year you just need to do the required volunteer and advanced training hours then log your hours through the Master Naturalist online volunteer reporting system.
Below are some frequently asked questions provided by the South Carolina Master Naturalist Program regarding volunteer and advanced training hours:

How many hours do I need to get each year?
The requirements for certification as a South Carolina Master Naturalist include 30 hours per year of approved volunteer work. Eight of these 30 hours are required to be Advanced Training leaving at least 22 hours of volunteer hours.
In order to keep your Master Naturalist status current, 
you must take at least 8 hours of advanced training per year (16 hours per year are recommended if you are a Statewide Master Naturalist).

What are the requirements for volunteer projects?
Projects must involve educating the public, enhancing the natural resources of our state, or other approved functions. In general, volunteer projects must fall into one of the four main areas: Citizen Science projects, Ecological Services projects, Education and Interpretation, or Coordination for the Master Naturalist program. If you are unsure that your volunteer project meets the requirements you should reach out to your Host site for guidance.

How do I track my volunteer hours?
You must report your hours online through the online volunteer reporting system. If you cannot find that information or cannot remember your password, please contact Dr. Blake (jblake@clemson.edu). There is a paper form online you may print for your personal use.

How do I find volunteer and advanced training opportunities?
Finding volunteer activities is everyone’s responsibility, though in general, chapters and Host Sites will work together to find opportunities that they will share with members. 

What are the incentives?
As you accumulate hours, you will be rewarded with state-occurring gemstones for each year of volunteerism. For individual years, one amethyst (SC state gemstone) will be placed in your name tag in one of the five small holes. Awarding of amethysts is handled by the Association and/or Host Site. The hole closest to the logo is intended as an incentive for you to become a Statewide Master Naturalist. This training prepares you to train others and helps to make you competent in two biographical regions other than the one in which you initially took training. Earn this designation and you will receive an emerald from the State office.

What does the advanced training provide?
Advanced training opportunities will provide exposure to some aspect of natural history, natural resource management or nature interpretation, including any specific methods or skills used to study these things. In addition, the training should provide you knowledge or skills that you need to complete your volunteer service obligation.

Who offers advanced training?
Host Sites, locations where Master Naturalists receive their initial training, local Master Naturalist associations, and the State Master Naturalist Office will offer advanced trainings. Registration for these training sessions will be available through the Host Site or through the State Master Naturalist web site. Other partner organizations may offer advanced training and registration is usually handled by the sponsoring organization.

How do I get my SC State Certification?
1) Complete a 12-week SC Master Naturalist course plus 30 hours of volunteer service which includes 8 hours of advanced training. Volunteer service hours and advanced training must be entered into the Master Naturalist Online Volunteer Hour Reporting System. 
2) Complete 16 hours of advanced training in each of two (2) additional SC biogeographical regions. The biogeographical regions in SC are the Blue Ridge, Piedmont, Sandhills, Coastal Plain (combined Inner Coastal Plain and Outer Coastal Plain), and Coastal Zone. Each host site has class sessions in two biogeographical regions. In order to earn advanced training hours towards the SC Statewide Master Naturalist certification, you must go outside of those two regions for your advanced training. Charleston and Lowcountry graduates must obtain 16 hours of advanced training in each of two of these biogeographical regions – Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge. Advanced training hours must be entered into the Master Naturalist Online Volunteer Hour Reporting System.
3) Complete the 6-hour Advanced Training – Interpretation for the 
Master Naturalist offered by the State Master Naturalist Office or an interpretation course approved by the State Coordinator. This is a stand-alone course and does not count towards the 32 hours of advanced training in the additional biogeographical regions nor does it count towards your yearly 8 hours of advanced training to maintain your Master Naturalist certification. Training hours must be entered into the Master Naturalist Online Volunteer Hour Reporting System. 

It’s very possible that you may have already earned some gems for your name tag and it’s never too late to log your hours, so once you’ve logged your hours through the online volunteer reporting system, you can drop your name badge off with the person at the front desk of the Caw Caw visitor center. (Please allow up to 2 weeks) 

PRO TIP: Drop off/pick up your name tag on a Wednesday or Saturday and pre-register to enjoy a naturalist led early morning bird walk with our friends at Charleston County Parks and Recreation! 

By: Laura Bridgeman